Friday, January 29, 2010

"Blessed Unrest"

Have you heard about Blessed Unrest? That is the name of a book by Paul Hawken, whom I had never heard of before the Justice Summit at William Jewell College earlier this month. I have not read the book, but I want to share some of its content as introduced on Internet videos.
I am writing this partially in response to the question with which I ended my previous posting, “Is there any encouraging word?” (To be honest, I was hoping for more responses and more encouragement from you, my Thinking Friends.)
In Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming (2007), Hawken (b. 1946) depicts the convergence of environmental and social justice movements as the largest and fastest growing social movement in history. This is encouraging.
Speaking to the Bioneers Conference back in 2006, Hawken talked about all the groups worldwide which are working on justice and sustainable activities. He said at that time there were at least 130,000 such groups. (You can see part of that talk here, and I encourage you to view it, if you haven't already. And in case you don’t know, as I didn’t until recently, Bioneers is an organization that formed in 1990 with the newly coined word as their name. Bioneer means “biological pioneer.” You can learn more about them here.)
Hawken has also been instrumental in launching (in 2007) as an online directory to help map out the work done by these justice and sustainability organizations around the world. There are now more than 110,000 such organization listed, and accessible, on that website, and that number may be only about 1/10 of the total number of such organizations in the world.
One reviewer of Blessed Unrest wrote, “Hawken claims that the reversal of self-destructive behavior is the ultimate purpose of this movement.” Thus, it seems that the unrest Hawkins writes about is the widespread dissatisfaction with how the earth and many people living on it are being mistreated. And that unrest is blessed because it is motivating so many people to be actively involved in change for the better.
Hawken ends his book with these words: “What will guide us is a living intelligence that creates miracles every second, carried forth by a movement with no name” (p. 190).
I find all of this encouraging—and a call to become more involved in working for positive changes in the world.
P.S. I also thought the President’s fine State of the Union address on Wednesday evening was encouraging. What did you think?


  1. Leroy,
    Thanks for your comments. I have read Hawken's book and you are on target with your thoughts. Hawken became disillusioned because no significant progress was being made on climate change and sustainable processes. This book is his rejuvination, as it were. There are a multitude of groups working, from many pespectives, toward the same end. Hawken finds in this a hopeful note. First, the movement cannot be derailed by stopping one group. Second, the many streams form a river of strength for change. I don't know if the use of the word 'blessed' has spiritual implications. Could this gathering of over 100,000 groups be a movement of the spirit?

  2. I am glad that encouragement may be found in Hawken's book; although, I am not sure how it is directly related to the cause of the original discouragement over "politics in this country." I have never read Hawken's book, although I am sympathetic with the idea of sustainable lifestyles (our house was designed and built with sustainability as the goal).

    What I find discouraging is the economics of sustainability. In fact, just as we found in building our house, to use products that are organically grown, or are of materials that contribute to sustainability, is enormously expensive, far more than we ever intended to spend on a house. And that does not include the fact that the persons who are in the business to put one in touch with these resources also have to make a living (and seem to be making quite a good one--ah, capitalism!)

    I frankly don't see sustainability catching on in the way that it needs to if notions of personal prosperity must also be sustained. I have not read Hawken's book, but I suspect that unless there accompanies some kind of renewal of communal lifestyles whereby resources may be shared more than owned, it seems a pipe dream. Thoughts?

  3. Thursday night I watched a rerun of the first episode of Ken Burns' epic view of America's National Parks, which runs under the title "America's Best Idea." "A converging stream of environmental and social justice" would not be a bad subtitle. Our park system was born in a long clash of powerful forces, which continues to this very day.

    Even giants such as John Muir and John D Rockefeller Jr are but ripples in the great tide that brought the parks into being. Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark out to explore a new continent. Abraham Lincoln signed the first law leading towards National Parks (giving Yosemite to California as a state park). Ulysses Grant signed the first law creating a National Park, almost by accident, since there was no state of Wyoming to take ownership of Yellowstone. On down through the years the system gradually took form. Our history became part of the parks, and finally that legacy doubled back on itself when Marian Anderson made history, singing one of America's most historic concerts on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Then King came there to have a dream. Meanwhile, National Parks are being born all over the world.

    Another part of Ken Burns' documentary is the rise of related organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society. All the while, each generation has been standing on the shoulders of those who went before. One example was the effort of John D Rockefeller jr to donate thousands of acres he had purchased around Grand Teton Nation Park to add to the park. He was stymied for years by local politicians and leaders. The bill that finally allowed the expansion of the park included a rider that banned the President of the United States from establishing any new National Monuments in Wyoming without explicit approval from Congress. Still, at the end of the day, Wyoming put the Grand Tetons on their license plates, and one of the now aging leaders of the fight against the expansion confessed in the documentary that he was glad that that was one battle he lost a few decades ago.

    In America, we are always looking for the silver bullet to provide the quick fix. Glory be to God, that is not how history is made.